If innovation is really encouraged by ‘starvation and pressure….’.

March 26, 2011

First of two mini posts today……

As I write this an estimated 300,000 people will be marching in Central London in protest at the spending cuts/deficit reduction plans of the UK coalition government. The rights and wrongs of the governments approach to deficit reduction are not for discussion here, however following the budget and the generally very weak economic figures coming out of the UK it seems that we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This week I have been with 3 different clients, who also happen to be Local Authorities. They won’t be clients for much longer. As they approach the end of the financial year the reduction in staffing numbers and cuts to services is becoming apparent. I saw people having leaving parties, packing up crates, emptying desks and lots of gallows humour.

Given the conditions we find ourselves in and, if it is the case that ‘starvation and pressure are necessary conditions for innovation‘, then will we see parts of the UK entering into some period of rapid innovation?

I would love this to be the case but sadly I think its probably not going to happen. Ultimately, whilst ‘starvation and pressure’ do perhaps provide the kick up the butt/burning platform/melting iceberg (pick your own metaphor) to kick start innovation. We require also some finance, education, cultural shift, different institutions, different infrastructure and time. Traveling extensively around the UK as I do, I can see that there are clearly places that are being worse hit than others. So besides joining the march, protesting or writing to the government it would seem that the only choices would be to slink away and accept your fate or get active and try and innovate a solution.

I’m working with an ‘innovation group’ of local businesses/community leaders that have come together in my home city in order to try and catalyse some type of response. We are not sure what this might be yet, we just know we want to ‘do something’ and that something needs to be positive and different. I think we are also clear that the ‘old models’ whether they be economic, political or social are reaching the end of the line.

At the minute this is the ultimate in ’emergent’ thinking and the challenge over time will be to develop this into something more concrete. Interesting and challenging times.

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